For nearly a full year now, President Obama's job-approval rating has been stuck below 50 percent in the Gallup Poll. That means a plurality-to-a-majority of Americans expressed disapproval of the job he is doing for the past 11 months.


The last time Obama hit 50-percent approval was 11 months ago — late June 2013. Since then, thanks to a number of problems such as the still-anemic economy and the bumpy rollout of ObamaCare, coupled with a series of crises with the IRS, Benghazi and now the Departments of Veterans Affairs health care system, it has been mostly downhill. For the week ending May 18, Obama averaged 44 percent approval, 51 percent disapproval.

Should Democrats running in this year's congressional elections be worried about the president's persistent low ratings? In a word, yes. History suggests that presidents with job approval ratings below 50 percent at this point cost their party seats in the midterm elections. Take a look:

Nonetheless, Johnson chose not to seek reelection two years later.

Make no mistake: This history is not lost on Obama and his political strategists. They know they have trouble snarling at their heels and they are pedaling as hard as they can to outrun it. Republicans need to win six Democratic seats to take over the Senate and seem safe in holding onto their majority in the House. That's why the president is out on the fundraising trail every chance he gets. His pleas at a flurry of Democratic dinners and galas in Texas, New York City, Chicago and Washington in recent days and weeks broadcast his worry:

"We've got to win these midterms," Obama said last week at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser in Potomac, Md. "And we've got to be serious about it. We have to have the same sense of urgency that we do when presidential candidates are at the top of the ballot. We turn out during presidential elections; we don't in midterms. Our voters do not. And that's why an event like this is so important. We know how to turn folks out. We've got to make sure that we've got the resources to do it."

Obama is pitching hard against history. Republican control of the House and Senate during his last two years in office is his worst nightmare. If he feels hamstrung trying to do the things he wants to do with Republicans ruling one house of Congress, GOP majorities in the House and Senate will fit like a straitjacket. And his legacy will be largely out of his control.

Benedetto is a retired USA Today White House correspondent and columnist. He now teaches politics and journalism at American University and The Fund for American Studies program at George Mason University.